Learning Log 6: Time matters, literacy matters and assessment as instruction

Reading Response: Fogarty (2016) Chapter 6: Time Matters, Chapter 7: Literacy Matters, & Chapter 10: Instruction is Assessment, Assessment as Instruction

In chapter 6 Fogarty tackles the subject of how time is handled in schools. She introduces different alternatives to the traditional model of school, where the students are required to spend all their time being present at the school and in the classroom. The alternatives that she introduces are hybrid classes, flip classes, or online classes, where the students have more freedom to self-regulate their learning time.

She also explains that students in a well-balanced teaching-learning environment need three forms of time: 1. Study time, 2. Play time, and 3. Down-time. Study time is pretty self-explanatory and is basically what most schools consist of the whole day. Fogarty writes that play-time and down-time are often overlooked, but are crucial for the students learning as well. She argues that even big companies such as google introduced play-time for their employees, where they can do sports or explore their own interests, so it wouldn’t be far fetched to introduce play-time in school. Down-time is another important factor, because students can’t be “on” the whole day.

I have to agree with Fogarty about how important all three forms of time are for the students. Luckily my AT valued all three-time forms in her classroom. She would often just let the students stay outside after recess for a few minutes, so that they can burn their energy and play for a while, and then come back inside ready to learn. She also introduced “down-time” in form of mindfulness and breathing exercises, which also helped the students to focus better.

Chapter 7 “Literacy matters” is almost self-explanatory, because Fogarty explains how important literacy is. She explains the three basic skills that all students need to become literate: 1. Vocabulary, 2. Fluency and 3. Comprehension. She describes how these different skills look like. At the end of the chapter she also introduces some other forms of literacy, such as digital, media and global literacy.

Literacy is definitely an extremely important skill for everyone to have. Without being literate, we couldn’t really function in society. I think it is very interesting to see how fast kids can pick up a (new) language and learn how to read and write. I was especially impressed by the ESL students in my grade 1 class last. In the beginning the didn’t speak a word and at the end of my practicum they were able to speak fluently.

In chapter 10 “Instruction is Assessment” Fogarty argues that indeed instruction is a form of assessment. She describes the two schools of thoughts in relation to instruction and assessment. On the one side there are the scholars and teachers who believe that instruction provides and opportunity for assessment and on the other side there are the scholars and teachers who believe that instruction and assessment are on and the same.

Fogarty introduces five different assessment strategies that ensure that the students actually comprehended the material that was covered. For all five strategies the teacher has to assess while she or he instructs. The strategies are: Revisit, Review, Reflect, Reteach, Revise (5 R).

I think that instruction and assessment are very closely interconnected, but I don’t know if I would say that all forms of instruction are automatically assessment. However, I guess that assessment happens all the time, even if you are only observing the students. I can see how assessment and instruction are the same in the 5-Rs strategies that Fogarty wrote about, and I believe using the 5-Rs can be very helpful for comprehension in the classroom.


Learning Log 5: “Invite, Excite, Ignite” -> Why are these topics fundamentally important?

Chapter 11 of Fogarty’s book focuses on how teachers can motivate and challenge students to become mastery learners. Fogarty underlines the importance of teaching students to think with a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. If students have a growth mindset they will be able work on and solve difficult tasks, while they would want to avoid difficult tasks, if the have a fixed mindset. Fogarty also describes how elite athletes, artists and performers all over the world master their skills. Ultimately mastering a skill comes down to deep practice, ignition and master coaching. Deep practice refers to repeating the skill over and over again, ignition means that there needs to be a motivating factor that makes someone want to learn a skill and master coaching describes that you might benefit from a coach (or teacher) to master a skill. Fogarty doesn’t really provide active solutions of how to motivate your students, but I think her intention was to show how important it is to present challenges to your students and to give them the tools to overcome those challenges.

Based on my practicum experience, I have to fully agree with Fogarty. I think it is a key point of teaching to provide challenging tasks to your students. Even though I was teaching in a gifted class, I made the mistake to just follow the standard curriculum in the beginning of my practicum. Of course, the students weren’t challenged at all by the content that I prepared. I quickly realised this and had to change my approach completely. I started to create tasks and projects that were more challenging and mature. Suddenly the students were way more engaged and motivated during my lessons.

I think being challenged is fundamentally important for every human. Only by being challenged can we come up with new inventions, as well as progress and develop as a society. One part of being challenged is to make mistakes, and we should all accept that making mistakes is more than ok, because our mistakes will ultimately help us to overcome the challenge(s) posed to us. I think we can’t teach children this early enough. Fogarty also wrote that in Western countries, as opposed to Asian countries, teachers are fairly quick to intervene when a student is struggling with a challenging problem. I think she definitely has a point here and I often catch myself to help a student immediately after they raise their hand. It might actually be better to let them figure something out on their own, because the learning factor will be bigger than if the teacher just gives the answer immediately. It is basically learning for life, because at one point you will be presented with a challenge and then no one is there to help you, so you have to figure something out alone.

I also believe that it is important to teach students that attempting something is much better than just to say ”I can’t do this”. A growth mindset will be way more beneficial than a fixed mindset.

Learning Log 4: Reading Response “Invite, Excite, Ignite” (Robin J. Fogarty) Chapters 4 & 5

I really enjoy reading the book “Invite, Excite, ignite”, because Fogarty writes about so many important topics for us as aspiring teachers. Once again, I think she raised important points in Chapter 4 & 5 with emphasizing collaboration in our classrooms and challenging our students to think.

In chapter 4, Fogarty stresses the importance of collaboration between students in the classroom and describes a few of the benefits that collaboration can have like increased listening skills, responsibility and development of leadership skills. She explains that collaboration is sometimes neglected in schools, but being able to collaborate is a very important skill especially in the 21st century. In fact, collaboration is even regarded as a 21st century learning skill. Fogarty also describes a very useful technique of how teachers can implement productive collaboration in their classrooms. She writes that teachers should follow the BUILD method. The B in BUILD stands for Building in higher order thinking, the U stands for uniting the team, the I stands for individual accountability, the L stands for looking over and reflecting, and the D stand for developing social skills. Basically, student groups should be presented with a challenging task that foster their higher-order thinking skills; they should really cooperate and build a team; they should all have a role assigned in the team (like materials manager, reporter, recorder, and scout), so that no one feels left out; they should reflect upon their work; and they should be able to develop social skills.

I do have to agree with Fogarty that collaboration is very important tool that we can use in the classroom. However, it often happens that group work is not exactly beneficial for every group member, for example, if only one or two students would do all the work. That is, why I really appreciate Fogarty’s tips of how to make collaboration more productive and I especially like the idea of assigning different roles to all the individual team members. I think that some teachers don’t like the noise level of group work, which is holding them back from doing group work more regularly, but for me personally a higher noise level during group work is a good sign, especially if all the students are engaged.

In chapter 5, Fogarty describes how important it is to present students with challenging questions. Students learn the most when they are fully engaged in a challenging problem or task. Fogarty writes that we (teachers) often think that students are overwhelmed with challenging tasks, but that students in reality actually want to be challenged and explore subjects further than what is required of them in the curriculum. Fogarty once again explains useful techniques of how teachers could challenge students or how they could help students to challenge themselves. Some of the techniques mentioned are the “1-minute-paragrpah” (students will have 1 minute to write a paragraph about a question and have to challenge themselves to write more and more in the 1-minute time frame over the course of the school year), “Tell me more” (the teacher simply asks the students “Tell me more” to spark further thinking), and “Project-based learning”.

I have to agree with Fogarty again in that we have to challenge our students, especially in the classroom that I am in now with only gifted students. When I started the practicum, I made the mistake to prepare tasks based on the curriculum that were way to simple for them. Now I understand that most students in my class are ready for problems and tasks that are beyond the curriculum content. I learned a lot from my Associate Teacher and I am getting better in preparing open-ended challenging tasks or projects that causes them to think.

How will you communicate your personal philosophy of education with those in your professional learning communities, including parents?

I can’t really answer this question yet, since I didn’t develop a full personal philosophy for teaching at this point in time, but I will try my best.

I don’t think I can bring all my beliefs about teaching into my practicum, because my beliefs might clash with the beliefs of my associate teacher. However, I am trying to emphasize certain area of teaching that we have in common, which are luckily a lot. I think by communicating with my AT and the other teachers in the school, you can kind of get a feeling for what everyone’s teaching approach is and I actually see the teaching methods of my AT. My AT really likes project-based learning, group work, open-ended and challenging tasks, 21st century skills (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creative thinking), etc. Those are definitely things that we have in common. My AT also thinks it is a good thing, if the classroom gets a little bit louder during group work, which we also have in common. Another point is that she really likes to go outdoors with the students for either structured or free play and she is not afraid of letting the students take risks. Going outdoors with students is something that is really important to me too.

In my future career, I would ideally communicate my teaching philosophy to colleagues and parents before the school year starts. I think it is especially important for the parents of my students to know what my teaching beliefs are. In terms of classroom environment, I would prefer engaged students that collaborate on hands-on tasks and projects, as mentioned above. As for the physical environment I would like the students to participate in decorating the room with their work. Ideally, I would also like to co-create the teaching content with the students, by asking them what they are interested in. In terms of planning, I think it is important to plan your lessons early and rather be over-prepared than under-prepared. I also really value play-based learning and gamification of the classroom, which might be a point that I would have to explain to parents. In general I think my professional learning community and the parents will really get to know my teaching philosophy over time, as we share ideas and communicate otherwise.

Learning Log 3: Differentiation and Inclusive Practices

1) How does your understanding of differentiation compare to what you have observed in practicum?

My understanding of differentiation was that every student is different and thus has different needs. The teachers job is then to target the individual learning needs of each student through their instruction. I thought this means something like preparing a different task for every student or creating a different worksheet for each one of your students.
This initial understanding was altered after reading the chapters for this Learning Log. I liked the points about differentiation that Fogarty describes in Chapter 8. She explains that differentiation is all about Change, Challenge and Choice.

With Change she means that you should change your teaching methods from time to time to keep your students interested. This could mean to change how to present your content – for example you could teach it through text or orally or through media. You could also change the environment that you teach in – for example instead of teaching in the classroom you could go outside. Or you could change your assessment methods – for example instead of an exam you could let the students do a project. Change will help to keep your students hooked
With Challenge she means to present your students with difficult tasks that they have to think about and get engaged in. A student will have to use her/his brain more and get more excited when solving a difficult problem as compared to solving simple tasks about something that they already know.
With Choice she means that you should present your students with different choices of how to solve a certain task. This will increase the student’s ownership and motivation, because they can use their strengths.

Choice is also reflected in the Research Monograph “What Works? – Research into Practice: Including students with exceptionalities”. Dr. Sheila Bennett explains that you should use a variety of instructional methods, including differentiated instruction and universal design in your classroom to meet the needs of different students. The monograph also mentions some other noteworthy points like working together with the whole school team to reach differentiation and inclusion and to reflect on one’s own beliefs about differentiation and inclusion.

Based on my altered understanding of differentiation I can say that my Associate Teacher definitely uses differentiation strategies in the classroom. My AT uses all three points mentioned by Fogarty in her classroom. She changes her instruction methods regularly. For example, sometimes she shows a video, sometimes she let’s the student read a task or sometimes she explains the task verbally. My AT also constantly switches the assessment tasks from poster projects or creating videos to exhibitions.

She also challenges the students in most tasks in different subjects throughout the day. Since it is a gifted class, the students know a lot already. During teaching my AT and I use a lot of open-ended questions and tasks that the students have to explore like designing an infographic, or creating a video about something. That challenges the students to think outside the box. The school also has a LEGO robotics club, where the students are exposed to coding and engineering and have to solve real-life problems.

I guess Choice is the biggest strength of my AT. She often has different tasks for students to complete. For example, for a science lesson two weeks ago, she prepared a worksheet with a 3×3 bingo square and 9 different tasks in them. The students could then choose one task that they wanted to complete from each row. The students also have the choice of how to work on a writing task in class, they can either write with a pen or with a computer. One student always brings in a typewriter and answers writing questions with his typewriter.

2) How will strategies for differentiation and engaging all learners be reflected in your practice?

I think that differentiation strategies should be used in every classroom, because they are so important for students. Nonetheless I think it is a lot of work for teachers to prepare differentiated tasks for every subject for every school day

I definitely want to use different differentiation strategies in my classroom in the future though. Maybe, after teaching for a few years and having a foundation in materials and instructional strategies I could engage in differentiation fully.
Some of the strategies that I want to use for sure are the Change, Challenge and Choice strategies mentioned by Fogarty. I think these three areas are very important to know for teachers in general. I would also like to keep Fogarty’s other points in mind like constantly checking in on the students transfer (“Do they know the take-away of the lesson?” “Is there a real-life connection”) and letting the students have more responsibilities like for example in correcting their own work (“Coaching and not Correcting”). I also think it is important to collaborate with your colleagues to come up with strategies of how to engage all learners.

I think the most important thing is to get to know your students, because then you know what kind of learning needs they have, what kind of learning style they prefer and what kind of topics they are interested in. Once you have all this information as a teacher, it gets much easier to prepare and create differentiated lesson’s.

Learning Log 2: Mental Health and Well-being

My associate teacher uses several of the strategies to improve mental health and well-being in her classroom, because we have many stressed and anxious students. I was placed in a gifted grade 5/6 class and I learned that gifted students struggle more with stress and anxiety than students in a regular classroom, since their parents expect a lot from them.

One of the strategies that my teacher uses for mental health is a “mindfulness” time every day. She basically plays quiet and calm music and lets the students relax either while sitting on their chairs or while lying on the carpet. This really helps to calm the students down and release some of their stress. Another strategy is that she uses predictable schedules and routines. The lessons of different weekdays follow the same routine every week. She also displays the schedule for each day on the blackboard. We have one student who really struggles with anxiety, if you ask him for his opinion when he didn’t raise his hand, so we wait until he raises his hand. The students also learned about the different parts of the brain, so that they can connect certain feelings to different parts of their brain. Another strategy for mental health that my teacher uses is to go outside to a playground with them every other day. There they can get rid of their energy and be connected to nature.

I really like all the strategies that my associate teacher uses and I can see myself using the same strategies in a teaching position. I especially like the “mindfulness” exercises, because I think that they really help the students to be able to concentrate better and to get focused. I also like the idea of up-regulating strategies like going outdoors with the students where they can let loose of the classroom regulations. I think this especially helps very active children to express themselves. I also like the idea of creating a learning environment where mistakes are viewed as a natural part of the learning process to reduce anxiety. Also, predictable schedules seem to be crucial for certain students. So that is another strategy that I want to use. It is also a great strategy to provide an area for students where they can go when they feel overwhelmed and to offer headphones that they can wear, if they feel bothered by the noise in the class.

Learning Log 1: Goal setting and planning

I think getting to know my Associate Teacher and my students was a very important step for my goal-setting and planning in the future. I am placed in a grade 5/6 gifted class and it is pretty challenging for me to adapt to the learning style of a gifted class. Last year I was placed in a grade 1 class with many refugee children, so basically, we taught the ABC to them. The students in my current placement are much more independent and they like to work on their own projects. Now I have to switch my goal-setting and planning to their needs. I learned that I can’t really teach them a lot, since they know most of the things that are required in the curriculum already. I think that means that I have to switch from a role as a teacher into a role as facilitator. Luckily, I can learn a lot from my Associate Teacher. In many subjects, she presents the students with an open-ended question or a project and then the students can use their knowledge creatively. I also see how difficult it is to teach a split class, because you have to focus on two grades in the curriculum.

My goals as I move forward will be to inform myself more about gifted students, to research how to create challenging tasks for my students and to learn from the practices of my Associate Teacher.

Create educational comics with PIXTON

PIXTON is a website that allows you and your students to create Click-n-Drag Comics and storyboards for almost every topic you can imagine. The comic characters that you can generate have an unlimited range of expressions and you can move them into any pose. The website also comes with more than 3000 backgrounds for your stories. You can add speech bubbles, subtitles and descriptions to your comics. It is even possible to collaborate on a comic with different people from around the world. PIXTON is a great tool to help you make your lessons more visual and more engaging. I personally would use PIXTON for social studies or history lessons, because I think that students can relate to historic stories better, if they can visualize them in a comic. Another great thing about the PIXTON website is that it offers free full length lesson plans by real teachers that can give you an idea of how to use comics in different subjects.

PIXTON was created by a wife-and-husband team (Clive and Daina Goodinson) that wanted to offer a platform where people can create and share stories. The website is trusted by several schools and universities, including such renown institutions as Stanford University and Harvard University.

The only catch of PIXTON is that it is not free of charge! It comes with a monthly fee of $10.99 CAD for one teacher. For me as a student this price is currently too high, but I will look into PIXTON again in the future. If you are just curious about how PIXTON works, there is a free trial for 15 days and it is worth to check out the website!